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 Harper Woods has budgeted funds in 2020 for five new police vehicles for its Department of Public Safety.

Harper Woods has budgeted funds in 2020 for five new police vehicles for its Department of Public Safety.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Harper Woods officials share their New Year’s resolutions

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published January 14, 2020

 The city of Harper Woods hopes to replace its aging electronic sign that stands in front of City Hall with a new one, which will provide more information to residents.

The city of Harper Woods hopes to replace its aging electronic sign that stands in front of City Hall with a new one, which will provide more information to residents.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

HARPER WOODS — Many people make resolutions for the new year, and Harper Woods’ city officials are no exception. Several shared their goals and what they would like to do differently in 2020.

Steven McGhee, the superintendent of the Harper Woods School District, said he would like to focus on expanding the “A3” approach he has supported since he took over the district in July of 2017.

“What we’re focused on is attitude, academics and accountability,” he said. “We want to change our attitude to close the achievement gap both in the classroom and as leaders for young people. Academically, we want to provide resources for our teachers and increase the accountability to do that. … We’ll be increasing our professional development efforts to achieve all of this.”

He added that the district will be taking a more proactive approach to adult education and starting a district radio station.

“In fall of 2020, the district is looking to provide adult education to the region around Harper Woods,” McGhee said. “This would mean providing GED and high school diplomas as well as career pathway resources, which would mean more jobs for the area. … We’re also getting ready to launch our districtwide radio station from our College and Career Institute.”

Kristen Valyi-Hax, the Harper Woods Public Library director, said she would like to increase library programming in many ways, but in youth programming and e-book service in particular.

“The Harper Woods Public Library is excited about the new year!” she wrote in an email. “Our resolutions for 2020 are to increase the number of events and programs to our residents, increase the number of e-books we offer to the community, and work with the local schools to increase services to students.”

Harper Woods Public Safety Director Vincent Smith wants to target dangerous and reckless drivers in 2020. The department plans on implementing new electronic signs to help curb these risks.

“We want to address high traffic complaints,” Smith explained. “Driver behavior seems to be getting worse in some areas, so we want to find ways to address it. One thing we’re doing is purchasing traffic calming devices, so we’ll have two fixed LED signs on Beaconsfield (Street) and some portable ones we can move around the city.”

He added that he wants to continue cross-training efforts so more public safety officers also can respond to fire emergencies. He also hopes to add new equipment to the department’s resources.

“We also want to continue fire training for our public safety officers,” Smith continued. “We are getting a drone this year as well. This would assist with searches where we don’t want to send the K-9 officer into an unsafe environment, or if we need an overtop view at fires so we can see things — like view what kind of structural damage we’re dealing with.”

City Manager Joe Rheker said his priority is to ensure the city is spending its tax dollars wisely while ensuring the community is getting upgrades so residents can feel confident that Harper Woods is both safe and a pleasant place to live.

“We have plans to put in more basketball hoops in our parks and to improve Salter Park in particular,” said Rheker. “We are looking at getting two new electronic boards in front of City Hall. We are budgeted for five new police vehicles and three new dump trucks for the (Department of Public Works). We’re also going to work hard at getting a lot of maintenance done that has been deferred in the last few years here at City Hall. This includes putting in a new roof, a new boiler and maybe some new windows. This also could include some cosmetic things: the carpet, the ceiling tiles, the paint and so forth.”

Mayor Kenneth Poynter wants to address community concerns about snow and leaf removal as well as find new ways to encourage public participation in city meetings and events.

“There are two community needs we already know we want to act on: snow removal and leaf removal,” Poynter remarked. “I think citizens would like to see an increase in the recreation program. Beyond that, we would like to see more citizen input. Our City Council members are available, our city manager is available, I am available, so please contact us.”

Poynter also hopes to foster economic development efforts along major city streets such as Kelly Road and Harper Avenue.

“Kelly Road is looking the best it’s looked in 15 years. We have storefronts being improved, particularly between Elkhart (Street) and Roscommon (Street). We’re looking for a new and improved Kelly, and we are still working on seeing what we can do to help Eastland Mall,” he said. “Many businesses over on Harper Avenue are looking at forming a business association, so we would like to help them in whatever way we can with that.”